Vote of the week: How should Disneyland respond to Universal Studios Hollywood's expansion?
Written by Robert Niles
Universal Studios Hollywood has spent a great deal of time on the front page of Theme Park Insider over the past week. But dropping $1.6 billion on a theme park deserves fans' attention. This week, Universal confirmed that it will open its own collection of Simpsons-themed restaurants next spring, add a Fast & Furious 360/3D experience to its Studio Tour next summer, as well as creating a special nighttime version of the tour for expanded evening hours in the park. And the headline is the confirmation that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open in Hollywood in 2016.Tweet
Lots of development happening right now at Universal Studios Hollywood
At today's grand opening for Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that the city expects Universal Studios Hollywood to drive nearly half the expected gain in annual visitors to the City of Los Angeles over the next six years, from more than 42 million visitors to LA last year to 50 million in 2020. Given that Universal Studios Hollywood drew an estimated 5.9 million visitors in 2012, all these expansions at USH would need to nearly double the park's attendance to hit LA's tourism goals.
Those would be Disney-like numbers. But companies such as NBCUniversal don't invest billions of dollars to remain comfortably in second place. Both in Hollywood and Orlando, Universal's rolling out attraction after new attraction to challenge market leaders Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
Sure, Universal's investing in expansion. But Disney didn't get to be the world's leader in theme parks without its own effort and investment. Let's keep the focus on the west coast today. What should Disneyland do next, to respond to the challenge from Universal?
Remember that Disneyland can add Marvel attractions whenever it wants, unlike Walt Disney World, which is barred from using Marvel characters in its theme parks due to Marvel's old exclusivity deal with Universal Orlando. Disney's announced no plans to bring Magic Bands to the Disneyland Resort, so that's another variable that designers wouldn't have to deal with in bringing a new attraction concept to the west coast. Sure, there's less room to work with in Anaheim, but that also provides sharper focus, as there are fewer sites to consider for any potential new rides and shows.
So let's look at the options. The quickest might be to copy some of the plans for Walt Disney World's Avatar land and to bring a version of that to Anaheim. Or, Disney's done some "blue sky" work on Star Wars and Marvel lands for Disneyland. How about those? We've also talked about Frozen as a potential new property for the Disneyland Resort. Finally, how about an Imagineering-driven franchise and bringing the Society of Explorers and Adventurers across the Pacific?
Let's consider which franchise would offer the most enticing combination of being easy to develop, fitting well thematically with surrounding attractions on an available site, and drawing new and return visitors to the Resort... while keeping those potential visitors away from Harry Potter, Butterbeer, Minions, and Krusty Burgers at Universal Studios Hollywood up the road in LA.
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